Monday, December 06, 2010

1930s Jazz Fonts

Thinking about 1930s fonts, I made some references to the effects of neon lights in the exaggeration of letter elements (the thick-and-thin). I hope that the image below will clarify this added three-dimensional factor that neon lights introduced. Although the particular font comes from a recent restoration, the building is a movie theater at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. I was out there last Friday to organize a traveling venue for the Peschke show (the meeting went well beyond my greatest expectation). I will have more to say about this building -- since it was designed by the architect who shaped Franklin & Marshall's 1930s identity (William Lee is to F&M's 1930s what Charles Klauder is to F&M's 1920s).
So, neon lights came to the U.S. in the 1920s and took over the night-time urban landscape in the 1930s. Since it is "Franklin" that got me started on period fonts, let me turn to another Franklin case study, not Franklin Field, or Franklin & Marshall College, but Franklin the jazz nightclub in New York. I saw the Franklin's marquee while previewing Ken Burns' Jazz (2001) documentary, Episode 4: The True Welcome (1:12:29 min). What I tried to show with the sketch below is the placement of the letters against the neon tubes (shown in red).
Period photos of nightclubs like the Savoy, show the use of jazzy fonts to advertise performances. Look at the font below used at the Brooklyn Paramount to advertise "DUKE ELLINGTON and His Cotton Club Orchestra IN PERSON," also from Ken Burn's Jazz (Episode 4, 1:17:23 min).
I wouldn't want to argue that swing directly influenced typography. The swing nightlife, however, had a profound graphic effect in advertising shows and grabbing the passer's-by attention.

1 comment:

Zamorano said...

Upon Looking at the font style and the way they play an important part of the building persona. It reminded me of a Los Angeles building built during the Art Deco era of the 1930's. The building is called the Wiltern Theater, it was designed by Sitiles O. Clements of Morgan, Walls & Clements a local architecture firm.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States